There’s a new kid on the Montreal ice-cream block: Les Givrés. It’s an extra-special ice cream parlour in a former semi-basement sushi shop on busy Rue St-Denis. The most important thing to know is that Les Givrés has some seriously top-shelf ice cream, but there’s a philosophy driving their awesomeness, as well…
Julien Lebuis, one of the ice cream shop’s three owners, was pretty much born in a vat of it: His family founded (and subsequently sold) Montreal’s iconic ice cream brand, Bilboquet. “I’ve always had ice cream in my life, but until I got into this, I was never crazy about ice cream. Now I’m crazy about it,” says Lebuis. The ice cream parlour Lebuis opened with two friends is a whole new generation of locally-sourced, artisanal, small-batch product.
For example, several of their hard ice cream flavours are based on classic French patisserie methods (one of the other partners is a trained pastry chef). Their version of cookies ‘n cream, for example, is made with pieces of homemade cocoa macaroon. Similarly, their hazelnut and pistachio flavours are made with hazelnut and pistachio praline in the style of a French patisserie.
The factory uses no artificial flavours and colours, and Lebuis is especially proud of the soft ice-cream. “Most soft ice cream comes from bags, but even our machines are of the best quality- the soft icecream maker is top-of-the-line.”
They’re obsessed with quality and freshness, which is why they decided to buy a machine for making their own cones, in cocoa and plain flavours, all stamped with their signature igloo. On some summer nights (call ahead), you can bring the kids to watch fresh ice cream cones being made in the shop window.
They only opened in May, so they’re only starting, but soon they hope to source all their ingredients local for their first complete season. As it is, they’re using all local raspberries and even sourcing unusual flavours of icecream that are particular to Quebec products and show off the flavours of our terroir: These include “cassis de Hatley”, a blackcurrant sorbet wade with berries form the Eastern Townships, as well as a “Melon de St-Eustache”, made with melons grown in a town just northeast of Montreal. (Because of the high water content in melon, it’s very rare to find an ice-cream shop that can be bothered, but the flavor is divine.)
One signature flavor so far is their crème glacée à la tire-d’érable: maple-sugar ice-cream flavoured only with maple syrup and nothing else, that tastes a lot like the pure Quebec flavor of maple sugar poured on fresh snow—trust me, it does.
Lebuis and his partners are following a business plan that is expressly dedicated to promoting and celebrating local flavours—at present, all the dairy products at Les Givrés are locally sourced, as well as the produce for several flavours (the maple, blackcurrant and melon flavours are but a few examples). And they’re only seeking to expand their repertoire. “We are ready to make tracks, go out of our way and pay more, for products that are fresh and local,” says Lebuis.
The shop also makes their own toppings for sundaes: Homemade chocolate sauce and crème beurre salé as well as Crème Chantilly, or whipped cream with liqueur and sugar, are made on the premises. There are also ice cream sandwiches made from housemade cookies, as well as hand-dipped popsicles, cakes, marshmallows and an innovation of which Lebuis is especially proud: The ice-cream macaroon, which is a macaroon cookie layered with ice-cream and a filling inside the filling!
Though Les Givrés is a storefront that plans to be open all year, they promise that in the colder months, they’ll diversify to include more stock of patisseries, sweets, hot drinks and seasonal treats, including Christmas logs. So it’s safe to say- we’ll be back!
If you’re in the Mile End you’ll want to try Léo Le Glacier, still a favourite for Italian-style ices. If you’re in Jean-Talon market, Havre-aux-Glaces is still a go-to for innovative and delicious seasonal flavours. If you’re in Old Montreal, the maple-infused sorbets and gelatos at Délices de l’Érable should be sampled and downtown frozen yogurt lovers will want to hit up swUrl. But if you find yourself on rue St-Denis, Les Givrés is an absolute must-stop. Something tells me they’ll be opening other locations before long!
Les Givrés, 3807 St-Denis, (514) 373-7558